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Plant Cell. 2008 Apr;20(4):1101-17. doi: 10.1105/tpc.107.055871. Epub 2008 Apr 25.

Analysis of the Arabidopsis histidine kinase ATHK1 reveals a connection between vegetative osmotic stress sensing and seed maturation.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


To cope with water stress, plants must be able to effectively sense, respond to, and adapt to changes in water availability. The Arabidopsis thaliana plasma membrane His kinase ATHK1 has been suggested to act as an osmosensor that detects water stress and initiates downstream responses. Here, we provide direct genetic evidence that ATHK1 not only is involved in the water stress response during early vegetative stages of plant growth but also plays a unique role in the regulation of desiccation processes during seed formation. To more comprehensively identify genes involved in the downstream pathways affected by the ATHK1-mediated response to water stress, we created a large-scale summary of expression data, termed the AtMegaCluster. In the AtMegaCluster, hierarchical clustering techniques were used to compare whole-genome expression levels in athk1 mutants with the expression levels reported in publicly available data sets of Arabidopsis tissues grown under a wide variety of conditions. These experiments revealed that ATHK1 is cotranscriptionally regulated with several Arabidopsis response regulators, together with two proteins containing novel sequences. Since overexpression of ATHK1 results in increased water stress tolerance, our observations suggest a new top-down route to increasing drought resistance via receptor-mediated increases in sensing water status, rather than through genetically engineered changes in downstream transcription factors or specific osmolytes.

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